I didn’t watch Fergie’s rendition of the national anthem when it aired live, for the same reason I didn’t watch it when the clip of it first started circulating — I have heard the national anthem enough. Someone did a bad job singing a bad song that I don’t like? Pass. But then, Fergie apologized. “I’m a risk-taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone,” she told TMZ Sports. She shouldn’t have apologized. She should’ve said, “You’re welcome, America. Bye.” Her rendition rules.
You probably assumed she just missed a bunch of notes. In fact, she mostly hits the notes she wanted to sing. And the ones she misses … who cares? As legendary jazz pianist Art Tatum said, “There’s no such thing as a wrong note.” And as Fergie said, “I’m a risk-taker artistically.” Sure, it’s weird to hear our traditionally least-weird song sung weirdly, but at least it was different. Even if you’ve never watched Kelly Clarkson or Pink sing the national anthem, you could picture what it would sound like right now in your head: hit all the notes at the beginning, sneaking in a little twang or rasp depending how far below the Mason-Dixon the sporting event is being held — and then it’s just belt belt belt.
Jimmy Kimmel, who was at the game and was caught laughing on camera, called it “unusually sultry.” He wasn’t alone — a lot of the people who mocked the performance did so for its its overt sexiness. First, who cares, if it was sexy? Marvin Gaye already taught us the national anthem fucks. Second, it wasn’t even that sexy. It mostly sounded like this:
If the headlines for the video instead read, “Fergie Channels Björk in Front of 20,000 People There Just to Watch Sloppy Basketball,” I’d watch instantly. And then when I did, I’d never stop watching it.
But when offered anything that dares to be different, social media actively worked to uphold orthodoxy. Experimentation in general is a good thing, and it can be an exceptional thing when it happens in such a public forum. Fergie’s performance was not a failure of conception or execution, but expectation. Because even if her rendition wasn’t perfect, the reaction to it definitely will dissuade the next artist with a strange idea to try it on national television. As if we need more passable, earnest versions of a song that literally has a verse celebrating the murder of slaves.
Like Fergie’s performance, America is currently messy, unpredictable, sharp at times, really freaking weird, and people are always mad about it online. Fergie’s rendition is the national anthem our country deserves. Simply put, it was Fergalicious.